The toxic "leader" meme
You're seeing it everywhere, aren't you? Today, Conservative operative and Designated Bush Fluffer of the Day at House of Hiatt seriously opines:
Despite real military progress, the situation in Iraq remains difficult. Gen. Petraeus is a skilled leader, but we do not know if even he can win.
"Even he..." Not "Even He"? Gerson really does believe that Petraeus is the new Jesus, doesn't he?
Anyhow, the trained categorization professionals in the Ontological Commmitment Wing of The Mighty Corrente Building have filed this post with The Department of You Can't Buff a Turd for several very good reasons:
1. I honestly can't imagine what "skilled leader" might mean in concrete terms. Can you? Is being a "skilled leader" like being a "skilled auto mechanic"? Is the operational definition of the term "makes Michael Gerson wet"? Who knows?*
2. The single-minded focus on "leadership" by Conservative propagandists and thinkers (sorry for the redundancy) isn't explicable from a rational standpoint. I mean, Napoleon was doubtless a "skilled leader," but he lost when he invaded Russia (Hitler: Ditto, Ditto). And Nelson was doubtless a "skilled leader" and he won at Trafalgar. So leadership is obviously only one of many factors; necessary, perhaps, but not sufficient. However, while obsession with "leadership" isn't rational, it can be explained as a search for a powerful "father figure" by authoritarian followers, who believe and act as if the entire, complex world is structured like a patriarchal family.**
3. General Petraeus may be the most skilfullest leader eva, even skilfuller than that supervisor I had on night shift at the Taco Bell, but that doesn't make him a skilled General. After all, Petraeus, like Bush, has failed upward, since his last job, training the Iraqi Army, failed miserably. Once again, the Conservative movement is confusing the brand of poitics they practice with war; in politics, if you're a Conservative, it's enough to display the attributes of skilled leadership on TV; the VRWC, its mighty Wurlitzer, and Republican dirty tricks will do the rest. Petraeus wrote the book on insurgency? Excellent! It's just like the Republican playbook! War, however, is a good deal less forgiving than politics. And the Iraqi insurgents are a far more adaptive enemy than the Democrats. Leaders don't win wars. Generals--and armies, and countries--win wars.
And then there's the whole fuhrerprinzip thing...
NOTE * Another category mistake?
NOTE ** And since Bush has turned out to be Bad Dad, the saner authoritarian followers have gotten queasy, and are looking around for a new father figure. He of the erect bearing, the be-medalled and "straight talking" General Petraeus, fits the bill perfectly, which explains the Presidential boomlet in his name. No doubt authoritarian followers, in this time of bonding, are especially sensitive, rather like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis. Hence the rather trivial MoveOn "Betray Us" ad has them bellowing.